CLARK TELESCOPE CLOSED
The Clark Telescope is closed for renovations from January 1, 2014 through mid-2015. Daytime Mars Tours will still generally go inside of the dome. In the evening, we will use the recently renovated 16-inch McAllister Telescope as our primary telescope for public viewing.
Thanks to donations from many generous supporters, we are preparing to restore the 24" Alvan Clark refractor, a national treasure in need of significant restoration. Stay tuned to this page for updates on our progress.
Presently still in use for nighttime viewing by our public visitors, the Clark Telescope arrived new in 1896 and was the first permanent telescope at Lowell Observatory. The Clark is one of the largest, most productive telescopes of its era and the first large telescope in the desert southwest of the United States.
This telescope was manufactured by the Alvan Clark & Sons Company from Cambridgeport, MA. Mr. Clark himself ground the two 24-inch (61-cm) diameter lenses; this set of optics is still one of the finest made in this epoch, and is especially effective for the study and observation of planets. The telescope tube is 32 feet (10 m) in length, made of rolled steel, and with the other moving parts weighs six tons (5400 kg). Despite the weight, this telescope is so well balanced that it is easily moved by hand!
Percival Lowell was, of course, the first to conduct research with the Clark, closely examining the surface of Mars; his books about this research helped popularize the "Red Planet" and astronomy as a whole among the general public. V.M. Slipher utilized the Clark for his seminal galaxy research, the most impactful research ever conducted at Lowell. Slipher was the first to detect the radial velocities of galaxies, a discovery which led to the realization that the universe is expanding and set the stage for the "Big Bang" theory.
From 1961 to 1969, U.S. Air Force and Lowell cartographers made detailed maps of the moon based on observations made with the Clark Telescope. These maps were critical to the Apollo program, during which men landed on and studied the moon's surface. Today, the Clark is no longer used for research but is part of our Mars Tour and special programs, and is used for nighttime viewing, weather permitting.
The Clark's dome is made of local Ponderosa pine wood and was constructed in Flagstaff. The dome, weighing eight tons (7300 kg), sits on 24 replica 1954 Ford pickup tires and is rotated by three electric motors.